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Editorial

Natural Family Planning
By Laura Haber

     Natural Family Planning has been around since the beginning of time. In the book of Leviticus, written between 900 and 800 BC, it is written, “When a woman has her menstrual flow, she shall be in a state of impurity for seven days…If a man dares lie with her, he contracts her impurity and shall be unclean for seven days…When a woman is afflicted with a flow of blood for several days outside her menstrual period, or when her flow continues beyond her ordinal time, as long as she suffers this unclean flow she shall be unclean, just as during her menstrual period. If she becomes free from her affliction, she will wait seven days and only then is she to be purified…On the eighth day she shall take two turtle doves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent.” Leviticus 15: 19-29). In other words, the woman was unclean during her menstrual period and had to wait for 12 days before she could dip her whole body in a basin called a mikvah and say a short blessing and then be touched by her husband. No surprise that this coincides, in general, with the most fertile time of the menstrual cycle and was consistent with the Jewish law to be “Fruitful and multiply.”
     Since those days, things have changed and we have come to understand a woman’s cycle and her fertility in a scientific and medical way. There has been much scrutiny and many obstacles to the use and implementation of Natural Family Planning as a means to regulate and space children naturally. We often hear the term “ineffective” or “counting days does not work” and Calendar Method often comes to mind. The up-to-date means of Natural Family Planning is extremely effective and does not use counting days to determine the time of fertility. Natural Family Planning, particularly the Creighton Model Fertility Care System, now also has the added benefit of NaPro Technology, founded by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, as a call to Pope Paul VI in 1968 with Humanae Vitae. This new technology provides the means to treat women who suffer from infertility and general gynecological problems using a method that preserves the fertility of a woman in a more natural way.
     This article sets out to educate and reaffirm the values that Natural Family Planning can instill not only in Catholics and those who value the true meaning of life, liberty and happiness, but also those who wish to understand their bodies in a more natural state, those who suffer from infertility, and those who are looking for an alternative to harmful contraceptive methods. We will also touch on some of the statistics that will help to reinforce the true value that Natural Family Planning offers not only to couples and women, but also to the nation as a whole.

VALUES
     Western culture as it enters the 21st century faces a wide spectrum of alarming social problems before it; the disintegration of the family as evidenced by ever-increasing divorce rates, family violence, sexually transmitted diseases, induced abortion, out-of-wedlock pregnancies (in spite of wide-spread contraceptive and abortion practices), sexual and physical child abuse, alcohol and drug addiction and teen suicide. These very real social issues are breaking down the very core of humanity.
     Natural Family Planning focuses on the total person perspective, bringing the attention back to where it should be: on the family, self education and body awareness. NFP educates women and couples about their bodies and the way in which we are designed and work. We are made to procreate, as we are also created to love and be loved, not only in the physical sense but also in the emotional and marital sense. Natural Family Planning highlights and emphasizes this very fact. The couple comes together and begins to understand how their bodies work separately and together.
     When young girls embrace the art of Natural Family Planning, they harbor a respect for the body and the reality that “sex” has more to it than just the physical act. They begin to look at the world around them in a whole new light and begin to ask more of themselves when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. Because they understand the consequences of what can happen, more and more young girls who embrace Natural Family Planning are abstaining, and if they are sexually active, stopping.
     The value of life is highlighted with Natural Family Planning. Every child is a wanted and loved child as there are no surprises with Natural Family Planning when the correct program is used with the aid of a knowledgeable Instructor or Practitioner, which in turn creates a decline in abortions.

UNDERSTANDING OUR BODIES
     We have been entrusted with an incredible ability to procreate and to simply just “be.” We have amazing bodies that allow us to run, jump, speak, feel pain and joy, and simply go from the couch to the fridge without a second thought. Many of us put our bodies through the wringer with unhealthy food, little to no exercise and bombard it with untested and downright harmful medications. Birth control pills, intrauterine devices (IUD’s), sterilization and abortion are part of this family. They create a false sense of security and allow the user the excuse to be frivolous with their sexuality regardless of the consequences. This “sexual revolution” has brought about freedom; freedom for sexually transmitted diseases, promiscuity, adultery and gender confusion.
     When we are born, we are in our most natural state. Why on earth would we deviate from the natural when most of the “products” advertised for us are so unnatural? Simple -- convenience. Natural Family Planning is natural and simple. As mentioned above, this is the most natural means to regulate family size as well as manage health issues for women. Somewhere along the line we have lost the ability and even the drive to understand ourselves and how we work. We have turned to doctors and pharmacies to ease our pain, space our children, and even give us our children.
     With the use of a natural method, the couple relies on the body’s reliable bio markers to determine when the time of fertility is approaching and has passed. For those who suffer from medical issues, known, unknown, or infertility, these bio markers are the cornerstone to identification, treatment and a possible cure. Many NFP users who suffered from unexplained infertility have found their answer and have gone on to have happy, healthy children; this speaks truth as well as volumes.

APPROACHING INFERTILITY
     Many couples today face the very real experience of infertility, whether it is unexplained, diagnosed or secondary. This is a painful situation that has opened up an industry profiting billions at the expense of women, their dignity, their savings, their health and the lives of their unborn children. What not many understand about IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is the damage, both emotionally and physically, that this process entails.
     IVF requires the couple to go through a very invasive process that is not only expensive, but time and most certainly emotionally consuming. The pharmaceutical drugs mandatory to produce the mock cycles needed for embryonic transplants are downright dangerous (Lupron, just to name one. Have you read about the lawsuit?) Cysts, bruising at the injection site, hyperstimulation of the ovaries, ovarian torsion (twisting of the ovary in on itself, cutting off blood supply and ultimately the loss of the ovary), ovarian and breast cancer, ectopic pregnancy and multiple gestation (which often leads to reduction or abortion) are all very real and dangerous side effects with IVF, although not nearly as well publicized as IVF’s “success rate.”
     Natural Family Planning has absolutely no side effects. The cost is far less than IVF, and the outcome of pregnancies carried to term is far greater, as seen below. IVF clinics do not treat the cause of the infertility; instead they give – sometimes -- babies (Instant family, just add doctor). The turnaround may be quicker, but the cost and true health benefit exempts this from being considered a healthful alternative.
     Natural Family Planning, with the right Instructor or Practitioner and Physician, will help to diagnose and treat infertility issues with far greater success in both pregnancy achievement and a successful pregnancy outcome. Babies are the icing on the cake; a healthy woman is the ultimate goal. Once the issue is diagnosed and treated, a successful pregnancy can result as well as future successful pregnancies without repeated expense and invasive treatments. IVF clinics will never say that make that claim.
     Most recently, an IVF clinic has advertised a “natural cycle” IVF. This would be wonderful if were truly that. “Natural Cycle” requires the use of Natural Family Planning, and the methods that promote respect for life and human dignity would never allow anyone to chart their cycle simply to throw away life at an IVF clinic.

NFP vs. Artificial Reproductive Technologies
     As stated above, Natural Family Planning strives to help the woman achieve a state of healthy living through tracking her cycles naturally. ART (Artificial Reproductive Technologies) do not provide any such assistance. Below is a table of statistics to truly compare Natural Family Planning to ART in both cost comparison and treatment of women’s health issues and infertility.

Courtesy of Pope Paul VI Institute

 NaPro TechnologyArtificial Repro. Technologies
 Success Rates (in percent)Success Rates (in percent)
Infertility Treatment  
Endometriosis56.7 – 76.457.0
Polycystic Ovaries62.5 – 80.025.6
   
Premenstrual Dysphoric Syndrome (PMS)  
Antidepressant95.243.0
   
Prematurity & Severe Prematurity Rate  
Prematurity Rate7.012.1
Severe Prematurity Rate1.33.9
   
Recurrent Spontaneous Abortion  
Current Medical Approach79Lower
   
Chronic Pelvic Pain  
Hysterectomy rate11.540.0
   
Cost Effectiveness  
Based on 5 years of use$494Birth Control Pills $1,866
   
Cost Effectiveness  
Infertility$322IVF $9,226
Current Medical Approach$16,795$28,556
PMS Evaluation & Treatment$3,218$5,104

NFP vs. Hormonal Contraceptives
     There are many reasons to choose a natural means to regulate fertility over using hormonal contraceptives and devices. Foremost, any hormonal contraceptives (chemical) and all IUD’s are abortifacients. The birth control pill has three ways in which it prevents a pregnancy; the first is to stop ovulation, but numerous cases have cited that this is not effective since the doses of estrogen in the pill had to be cut back due to the high incidence of breast cancer reported, and ovulation can and in some cases, does still occur. The second step is to alter the state of the cervical mucus to inhibit sperm transportation. The third and final step in chemical birth control pills to avoid pregnancy is to alter the lining of the uterus, thus preventing a fertilized egg (a new human life) from implanting and growing. The IUD’s real action mechanism is to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg as well.
     Natural Family Planning evokes self mastery as the woman grows to understand her body and use the times of fertility to achieve pregnancies and the times of infertility to avoid pregnancies. There are no surprises. Contraceptives provide the couple with a false sense of security and the false notion that there is no need to be selective, to wait for the right person and to abstain before marriage. Couples who use NFP have a much lower divorce rate than those who use nothing or contracept; there is better communication, they respect the truth of sexuality and the language of the body and become cooperators and co-creators with God.

CONCLUSION
     Natural Family Planning boasts many benefits, all of which are backed by scientific and medical research. There are a few methods of Natural Family Planning which can be used, Sympto-Thermal, Creighton Model Fertility Care System, which includes NaPro Technology, The Ovulation Method and the Couple to Couple League. Each method applies education to NFP to ensure the couple is educated and knowledgeable in its use. Many methods also have the added benefit of an Instructor or Practitioner to help guide the woman/couple in navigating long, irregular and/or anovulatory cycles, during breastfeeding, in cases of infertility and for those wishing to simply avoid or achieve a pregnancy. The effectiveness of NFP versus chemical methods of contraception is comparable, each having a method effectiveness of 98% and a use effectiveness of 95%. The only question remaining, with all the clear statistics, is why would someone go against natural law, God, and their very own body to ingest chemicals simply for the sake of convenience when there is a better, more natural approach?

Laura Haber has a BS in Human Services and is a Fertility Care Practitioner. Laura is a devoted wife and mother of four beautiful children, currently working on her license as a Certified Professional Midwife. She lives in and loves Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. She is also an officer in The Defenders of The Faith, Inc. Home Page

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